Is Mee Goreng an Indian Muslim Dish?

By Victoria Lim - Friday, Jan 08, 2016

Food is more than a bare necessity. It is the ice-breaker to any awkward situation, the door to an undiscovered realm, the joy to life, and the treasure trove to Singapore’s heritage.


More than a myriad of flavours and exciting spices, the food scene in Singapore is vast and aplenty with stories to be discovered – the who, whys, whens, whats, wheres and hows. In lieu with our jubilee year, Professors Lily Kong (Department of Social Science at Singapore management University) and Vineeta Sinha (Department of Sociology at national University of Singapore) have come together to show how food in this little red dot has social and cultural value, and are tied up with the political, economic and environmental issues – in a book published by World Scientific, Food, Foodways and Foodscapes: Culture, Community and Consumption in Post-colonial in Singapore.

Do you know how this bowl of minced meat, braised mushrooms and egg noodles came together

“… I like to see Singaporeans being not just connoisseur of traditional food but to also be more self-aware of their place in the world. It sounds a bit cliche but I don’t think we talked enough about it” says Vineeta Sinha on the inspiration behind this book.

Did you know Long Beach Seafood Restaurant created the Black Pepper Crab

Agreeing with Sinha’s sentiments, Kong says “And I thought that there was a huge gap as we heard what Professor Geoffrey Benjamin (Nanyang Technology Univeristy) said, the other parts of the world have a great deal of work that is being produced already (commonalities in society that arises from food consumption and production). But in Singapore, being the location for food seems so ironical that we are not reflecting on it sufficiently.”


Being a strong advocate for knowing the voices and brains behind our everyday hawker dishes, we thought it would be less than appropriate if we didn’t share what we found from the book. So here are three did-you-know facts that we took away.
1/  The very first hawkers sold dishes meant for snack or supper time 
In the early 60s, food was either home-cooked or bought at school or their workplace. Restaurants were simply too expensive for the majority to be eating out every single day; eating food from home was the best way to save money. Before the street food business boomed, they (the sellers) would wheel their carts around the kampongs in the afternoon to sell snacks and late nights for those craving for a midnight bite.


2/ It used to be a-okay to rear pigs 
From colonial to 1970s, Singapore saw a growth in the pig farming sector. However many issues such as the lack of fresh water, hygiene and environmental pollution led to the closure of many farms. By 1985 most of the land have made way to HDB flats and office buildings, and the import of pork have increased; this was the end of Singagpore’s pig farming days.


3/ Kopitiams were segregated by their cuisines
The Hainanese were the first to set up a kopitiam, followed by the Indians, Indian-Muslims and Malays. If you wanted to eat a prata and have a chicken chop, you have to travel from one place to another. It was unheard of to have a nasi biryani stall inside a Hainanese kopitiam. It was only after the implementation of HDB, everyone was reshuffled, then you could see a mix of cuisine in one space.

Coffeeshops saw how Singapore grew and changed over the years

More than just feeding your phone with food pictures, why not feed your brain with knowledge that you never knew. It is about time we start learning more about our food heritage culture.
The book is sold at all major bookstore for $59 for the hardcover and $28 for the paperback. More information about the book can be found at http://www.worldscienticfic.com/worldscibooks/10/1142/9416

The beginning of our food heritage